For hungry artists, the creative hustle can be draining both financially and emotionally. The feast or famine cycle of creative work affects more than just the bottom line in your bank account. It can diminish the level of care you take for yourself: mind, body, and soul. This means over time you have less to share as a creative artist, which can lead to diminishing returns on your booking rate. Believe me, I’ve been there.
When I was a fresh-out-of-drama-school actor, I would fly so high after booking a job only to crash when times grew slow. After one particularly devastating audition, I realized I had put my creative worth in the hands of the audition panel. My steady diet of $1 dumplings, anxiety, and not enough sleep was not helping. I resolved that there had to be a better way to feel the value of my creativity and thrive during slow periods. I spent the next few years educating myself on what I consider the non-negotiables of creative self-care: money management, mindset, and mindfulness.
I built up the financial and emotional resources I needed to perform all over the world, branch out into content creation, and produce my own work, including the premiere of my first feature film in Europe this summer. Now, I coach creatives to do the same. Working with my clients, I’ve found there are five key ways you can build up your creative reserves in even the most stagnant period.
1. Schedule an artistic recess.
Your mother was right: go play outside! Those moments spent outdoors put a reset on your thinking, which creates more space in your brain for your creativity to chime in. When stuck indoors with nowhere to go, try turning on the Nature channel or finding options online. Time spent in virtual nature counts and helps rebuild the reserves we need to keep our creative engine humming.
2. Tap into all five senses.
Taking a moment to tap into your five senses can open your creative brain and help you travel to a more relaxed time and place. Light a candle that smells like Valencia oranges. Play that song that reminds you of walking by the Seine. Toss some mint into your iced tea to make a quick mental trip to Morocco. Pull out the scarves you bought in India but never remember to wear. These moments of sensory indulgence may seem small but pack a punch for your mental health. They ground you in the physical details of your experiences and trigger a journey in your mind, which is jet fuel for creativity.
3. Seek out new experiences.
The mind craves new experiences, which can be hard in our shelter in place times. Challenge yourself to adventure in place instead. Watch that foreign film you’ve been meaning to see. Cruise through that book of travel photographs growing dusty on your bookshelf. Scroll through a museum online. It’s never been easier to step outside your zipcode without leaving your house thanks to the internet.
4. Clean up your relationship with money.
Working one-on-one with my clients, I see how often it’s their thinking around money that repels the financial freedom they desire. These voices in their head can be a formidable enemy but I’ve found an easy ritual that stops them cold. Grab an old school dollar bill. Post it somewhere prominent like by your bed or next to your desk. Every time you glance at it, repeat to yourself: “There is always more money.” This mantra paired with the visual of the dollar cements in your subconscious that money is always within reach.
5. Document your journey as a creative.
With billions of eyes one click away on your smartphone, it’s absurd not to show what you’re working on. Take a picture of what you’re doing each day, file it in a specific folder, and give it a great title that makes you happy. I call mine the Rockstar File. It cracks me up! Each time you add to this folder, you’re creating a portfolio of work you can share with your followers through your website or social media. With time, these shares become a body of work that represents you and the creative work you do. Like a business card for the digital age, it speaks for you 24/7. And when someone is looking to hire someone just like you, they can find you even while you sleep.
When I began to implement these approaches in my creative career, I saw slow periods as opportunities to nourish myself as an artist so when the casting director for an Equity tour called, I knew I was the secret to my creative success. Booking that six-month job (with benefits!) was icing on the cake after everything I’d learned. While we may not know when our industry will get back to business as usual, being the most healthy and whole artist translates into a richer creative well to draw from when the time is right. And truly, why wouldn’t we take amazing care of our most valuable resource–ourselves?
First appeared on Backstage.com August 6, 2020.